Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Changes Call, Boosts Ballpark Seating Delaney Pledges $4 Million More for 10,000 Seats

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Changes Call, Boosts Ballpark Seating Delaney Pledges $4 Million More for 10,000 Seats

Article excerpt

Byline: David DeCamp, Times-Union staff writer

Mayor John Delaney promised yesterday to spend $4 million more to allow Jacksonville's new ballpark to have 10,000 seats, switching his decision to build a stadium smaller than he originally promoted to voters.

The Times-Union reported yesterday that Delaney had decided to build an 8,500-seat stadium, arguing it would stay within the $25 million budget without sacrificing amenities such as suites, as well as match the local interest for buying minor league tickets.

But with 8,500 seats, the stadium also would have been below the 10,000-seat capacity recommended as a minimum by Minor League Baseball for AAA-level franchises, which Jacksonville hopes to attract. The higher-status franchise was another selling point to voters who were told last year of a ballpark holding up to12,000 people.

So at an 11 a.m. ceremony yesterday to kick off the project, Delaney announced his change of heart, promising to take $4 million from a $35 million contingency fund to pay for 1,500 to 2,000 more seats. The seats can be built during the initial construction, or as a later expansion. In the latter case, the money will be set aside for the addition.

"We've got the money in contingency, so we'll go ahead and move it there for those seats," Delaney said.

The stadium already was designed to accommodate enlargement, but city officials involved in the project questioned whether Jacksonville has a strong enough fan base to fill a stadium that holds 10,000 people. Average game attendance was 3,467 this year.

However, Delaney decided to avoid the appearance of breaking 2000 election promises. That September, voters approved raising the sales tax a half-cent to help pay for the $2.2 billion plan, which includes the ballpark east of downtown to replace aging Wolfson Park. The contingency fund is also part of the plan. …

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